Galatians 5:22 TM
Paul writes, “What happens when we live God’s way?…[We gain] a sense of compassion…[and] we find ourselves…not needing to force our way in life” (vv. 22-23 TM). Let’s think about these two Christlike qualities: (1) You become more compassionate. You stop seeing people as objects that need to be straightened out, or avoided, or used for your own benefit. When Jesus looked at people, “he was moved with compassion” (Matthew 9:36). When that happens, two wonderful things occur. First, you conquer selfishness and become concerned with somebody other than yourself. Second, you develop a sense of gratitude for blessings you may have taken for granted. In other words, compassion expands your field of vision beyond “us-four-and-no-more” to those you’ve been too busy to notice. (2) You no longer need “to force [your] way in life.” You stop seeing people who have gentle, loving spirits as “wimps” who never achieve much. Paul wrote, “We behaved gently…among you” (1 Thessalonians 2:7 AMPC). And Paul was no wimp! Sometimes the reason we’re so driven is we fear that if we become more gentle and loving, we might stop getting ahead and fall behind in the race. That kind of fearful, frantic thinking drains the creativity out of your life – not to mention the joy. And any success you enjoy is in spite of your stress, not because of it. Look at Jesus. He wasn’t in a hurry, He seldom raised His voice, He took time for children, He loved people and lifted them. And the Bible says, “This is the kind of life you’ve been invited into” (1 Peter 2:21 TM). It’s what’s known as living “God’s way.”
Soul food: Num 30:1-32:24; Mark 5:1-10; Ps 44:9-16; Prov 11:10-11
Ephesians 4:31 MSG
People can be irritating. No matter where we’re at in our walk with God, we are still surrounded by humans, and they will always do things that bug us. That’s why God calls us to treat each other well. We won’t always want to, so He reminds us to love, forgive, and be gentle with everyone we meet. No matter how we feel about them. As a whole, Ephesians 4:31-32 reads: ‘Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you’ (NIV). And there we have it. We are called to react lovingly to others because we have the ultimate example of forgiveness in God’s love for us. His model is the perfect template for our treatment of others. He didn’t wait for us to go to Him before He forgave us. Similarly, we don’t need someone’s permission to forgive them. It’s important to remember that He still holds us accountable for the wrong things that we do. He challenges us when we need to be pulled up. But He always does it in a caring way, with that wholehearted forgiveness and understanding, and we can do the same. We can make the first move towards those who annoy us, and try to show compassion. Chances are that those irritating people aren’t trying to make our life more complicated on purpose. They’re most likely trying to deal with, and make sense of, their own complicated lives. A little glimpse of God, through us, could help with that more than we may think.
Isa 49-52; Luke 3:11-20; Ps 81; Prov 2:11-15
Ephesians 4:31 MSG
Some of us excel in our careers, but act like a bull in a china shop when it comes to our relationships. Then we rationalize it by saying, “I didn’t mean any harm,” or “That’s just my way.” Sorry, God doesn’t let us off the hook that easily. When someone irritates you, God requires you to do two things: (1) Be the first to reach out. You may be right, but if you’re resentful, what good is it? Instead of nursing a grudge or waiting for the other person to apologize, be first to reach out. Someone else’s response neither validates nor invalidates your decision to forgive. Think about it: If you had only a year to live, would you give such things another second of your time? No! The Bible says, “Forgiving…as God…has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32 NLT). God made the first move in forgiving us so we’d know how to do it for others. (2) Be understanding. When some of us argue our point, we bulldoze everybody and everything in our way. Purpose-driven, time-conscious, goal-oriented people can be guilty of this. The Bible says, “Be gentle with one another, sensitive. Forgive one another as quickly and thoroughly as God…forgave you.” Chances are the people who get under your skin aren’t trying to complicate your life; they’re struggling to cope with their own. Once you understand there’s no ill will intended, you begin to feel compassion for them. That’s how it is with God. “He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle” (Isaiah 42:3 NLT). Today, ask Him to help you show His love toward those who irritate you.
Soul food: Isa 49-52; Luke 3:11-20; Ps 81; Prov 2:11-15
Proverbs 18:24 MSG
How many ‘true friends’ do you reckon you have? We’ve all probably got ‘friends’ and ‘followers’ on social media, but how many of them would we class as true friends? How many of them would we really want to share our lives with? How many of them would be there for us when we needed them? We all need true friends. We’re not supposed to do life on our own, we need the help of others, and they need our help too. In a perfect world Adam still couldn’t make it by himself, so God said, ‘I will make a helper suitable for him’ (Genesis 2:18 NIV). It’s not about being the most popular, with the most amount of friends. It’s about how deep that friendship is. It’s no good if we have lots of friends, but we can’t really trust any of them and can’t tell them about our lives. We need friends who we can be completely vulnerable with. The Bible says: ‘A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother’ (ESV). When we’re going through tough times, it can be really helpful to have a close friend facing things alongside us. And it can be even more helpful if that friend has experienced and overcome the things we’re going through. And then when we’ve come out the other side of our troubles, we can be that friend to someone else. But how can we be a good and true friend to others? The Bible says we should clothe ourselves with ‘compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience’ (Colossians 3:12 NIV). And that’s a great place to start.
Gen 13-16; John 13:18-30; Ps 114; Prov 31:1-5
Galatians 6:5 TM
Sally managed a small marketing company, and when problems arose she automatically looked for a scapegoat. At sales meetings she berated and criticized her co-workers, choosing to call her tirades “pep talks.” Her associates began to resign in droves, and when company revenues declined Sally blamed it on the slow economy, inefficient staff, and bad working conditions. Finally her boss had enough and fired her. Blame-shifting was how Sally survived. It never occurred to her that she may have contributed to the problem, in even a small way. Blaming others undermines your ability to “take responsibility for…your own life.” One expert writes: “Instead of becoming stronger you become weaker. People think if they admit to being part of the problem it means they’ve failed in some way. In reality the opposite is true. It takes strength to concede that everyone involved played a part. Another side effect of blame throwing is self-righteousness. In your mind you become unassailable, different, and better than others. You think you’re the strong one and other people are flawed. Nothing could be further from the truth; the Bible says, ‘The bigger the ego, the harder the fall” (Proverbs 16:18 TM). When you blame others you lose your ability to see what’s really going on. And you’re shocked when you lose a relationship or a job because you never saw it coming…When you stop blaming others you develop compassion. You realize mistakes are natural and inevitable – and they’re just mistakes. They can be corrected. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you or other people.” So: “Take responsibility for…your own life.”
Soul food: Exo 13-15; John 1:43-51; Ps 131; Prov 26:7-9